Hilton Considering New Top Tier Elite Level Above Diamond

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Hilton’s current top elite tier doesn’t much differentiate itself from mid-tier Gold. And Gold comes just from signing up either for the Citi Hilton Reserve Card or the Hilton HHonorsTM Surpass® Card from American Express. (Both cards let you earn Diamond status with $40,000 spend in a year as well.)

View from the Conrad Miami

Diamonds get more bonus points for in-hotel spend, and get guaranteed lounge access at applicable hotel brands — Golds may get lounge access, but if they don’t they get breakfast (which many prefer). Anything more is at the discretion of the hotel.

Hilton Diamond doesn’t:

  • Offer guaranteed late checkout.
  • Guarantee suite upgrades, even if available at check-in

In some sense they didn’t need to before. IHG Rewards Club doesn’t offer these things, but their hotels are mostly lower tier (and Intercontinental has its own elite program). Marriott hasn’t offered these things, they’re Hilton’s most direct competitor in terms of size and property levels.

Room Service at the Conrad Bangkok.. Diamond+ Could Blow Away the Competition With Room Service as an Elite Breakfast Benefit

But Marriott is improving its elite program. They’ve introduced guaranteed 4pm late checkout for Golds and Platinums. (And you just get Gold the first year with the Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card, you can keep it in future years with $10,000 spend in a year, and earn Platinum with $75,000 spend.) They almost certainly need to introduce a robust suite upgrade program with Marriott’s acquisition of Starwood.

Hilton has been working through its benefits and elite programs for some time. We’ve been hearing rumblings of a revamp but nothing has come. These things do take a good amount of time, when Starwood announced its new elite benefits at the beginning of 2012 that project had been underway for about two and a half years.

Hilton HHonors day-to-day is run by a veteran of Starwood Preferred Guest, which Mark Weinstein having been promoted up and Jeff Diskin before him promoted further still.

Club Lounge at the Conrad Bangkok

Now Doctor of Credit reports on a survey of potential new benefits for co-brand Hilton American Express cards.

One possible product is a Hilton HHonors Diamond Card from American Express which would:

  • Come with Hiltom Diamond status (no spend required)
  • Allow you to earn “Diamond+ status” with $60,000 annual spend on purchases

Entrance to the Conrad Koh Samui

Diamond+ would be a level above Diamond. It would almost certainly have to come with guaranteed late checkout and real suite upgrades as a program benefit rather than the beneficence of a given hotel.

This may not happen, it may not happen in this way, but it’s clearly the case that a new higher level of Hilton HHonors — and one that can be earned via premium credit card — is being considered.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Hilton doesn’t need an additional tier so much as simply better differentiating Diamond from Gold. Guaranteed late checkout and some sort of suite upgrade benefits added to Diamond would do the trick.

  2. Agree with VG. Diamond means so little, why add a Diamond+ to “fix” that? Is it only to enrage the already poorly treated Diamonds? Just make Diamond better.

  3. So if $95 gets you Gold and some decent benefits…given the current lack of differentiation w/Diamond (in terms of noted guaranteed benefits), does that credit card then cost $150 or so?

    Amazing that one may need to do 80+ nights w/Hilton just to get a 4pm check-out…

  4. I’m on track to earn Diamond for the year. Thinking about it reminds me each time that I will have stayed 60 nights in a Hilton Family property by the end of the year. That’s a lot of travel. But, what if work sends me somewhere where there is no Hilton? I wish Diamond didn’t require so many nights to earn.

  5. @John – get the $95 Hilton credit card for Gold, only stay Hilton when you need to, then give SPG/Marriott a shot where lesser night levels get you better/guaranteed benefits…better bang for your buck overall

  6. How about re-instating Diamond Force on awards. That was an awesome benefit and really made a difference between Diamond and Gold

  7. AMEX is one of the largest dog food companies known. Hilton should drop their business entirely (like Costco) and go with Mastercard.

    Diamond+. We all know someone hit the “+” symbol instead of “enter” and just didn’t fix it.

  8. @Gary can you do a post on what a Park Hyatt credit card would look like? It’s a bit like fantasy football for points whores.

  9. SPG is by far the best programme. Been there, done that (with the rest of the “girls”).This said, it remains to be seen how the Lifetime Platinum will end up with Marriott’s purchase…As for me, I tend to think that with so many hotel frequent guests offers around the planet, either Marriott stays with it or it dissolves itself.
    No further story, then…

  10. Last year I received an offer from Marriott to re-up my Gold status for 25K points…which I grabbed. Was that a targeted offer? Chance of Marriott doing this again?
    Also, if I get Gold status with Starwood via my AmEx Platinum card, and call the AmEx concierge to redo this for next year, does this mean Marriott will automatically make me Gold with them for 2017?

  11. @Barbara: That offer to retain your status may be targeted but from what I read in the past, I think a lot of members received an offer like that. If you can get closer to Gold status, they might even just let it slip and give you Gold again even though you didn’t surpass the night requirement in some cases.

    Yes. As long as you can keep the status or go higher from either programs, they will match it.

  12. The Thought Leader in Travel continues to go rogue: ”
    Hilton Diamond doesn’t:
    Offer guaranteed late checkout.
    Guarantee suite upgrades, even if available at check-in”

    The myopia is mind-numbing but, then again, it is only thing that could explain the unshakeable conviction that there are such things as “guaranteed” or “confirmed” elite perks, which are “best” or infinitely better, even though the only reason a program would “guarantee” a perk when it clearly does not have to is to limit its benefit by EXCLUDING non-“guaranteed” options.
    You want a “guaranteed” 4pm late checkout? Done, you got it. But then you’ll be quoted the 4pm “guarantee” when they deny your request for a 6pm checkout 😉 Why is that simple concept so hard to understand? It’s not. It is just the rigidity of accepting the fact that one has been wrong all these years.

    Same the thing for elite suite upgrades policies. There is no material difference between SPG’s, MR’s and HH’s, despite what you might have heard. Just actually read the T&C and interpret them yourselves rather than falling for the made interpretations! You were also told again and again that HGP DSUs are not capacity-controlled (“what do you ask?”) while the claim was just made up, like others.

    Now for the mother of all “guaranteed” perks, We’ve heard ad nauseam about how HGP has the “best” suite upgrades policy in the business because their DSUs are “guaranteed”, even if, like any other elite suite upgrades, they depend on AVAILABILITY. So, let’s explore just how great these so-called “guaranteed” or “confirmed” suite upgrades are. First the T&C entry for HGP DSUs (#10):

    T&C ITEM #10: “Diamond members will be issued four (4) suite upgrade awards, in their account, annually, defined as March 1st of the current year through the last day of February of the following year, Awards can be tracked through “My Awards” on goldpassport.com.”

    NOW, NOTICE THE RESTRICTIONS [see comments in brackets after each condition]:

    — Suite awards issued on or after March 1, 2016 must be redeemed for reservations with a checkout date prior to the expiration date of the award [latest restriction that gutted the perk some more]
    — A complimentary suite upgrade is valid on paid nights when PAYING AN ELIGIBLE RATE, for a maximum of 7 consecutive nights, at participating Hyatt hotels where suite accommodations are AVAILABLE. [i.e., DSUs are no good for pampering oneself on personal AWARD stays!]

    — Suite upgrade awards must be redeemed at time of reservation [what do you do if none are AVAILABLE at the “time of reservation”?!!!]

    — Suite upgrade awards are not valid at Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort, Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa, Park Hyatt Sydney, Andaz Tokyo, Hyatt Regency Kyoto, Hyatt Regency Phuket Resort, Hyatt Regency Tulsa, Hyatt Regency Wichita, Hyatt Paris Madeleine, Hyatt Herald Square, Hyatt Key West Resort and Spa, Hyatt Manila City of Dreams, Hyatt Santa Barbara, Hyatt Residence Club resorts, Hyatt Place and Hyatt House hotels and M life resorts. [That’s a long list of exclusions for a hotel chain with a tiny footprint!]

    — Guest must pay an eligible rate. [ they repeated this to make sure that there is no doubt]

    — For purposes of this award, a suite provides for one-bedroom accommodations. Suite upgrade awards are only valid for standard suites, defined as each participating properties introductory suite category. Blah…blah… blah [standard jargon in all programs excluding higher end suites].


    Then, there is this kicker. In addition to all of the above, and because they have “guaranteed” you just 4 (FOUR!) highly restrictive and restricted suite upgrades per year, they will make sure that those 4 “guaranteed” suite upgrades and all their restrictions are all you’ll get:

    T&C ITEM #3: “Diamond members will receive the best available room (EXCLUDING SUITES), including Regency Club or Grand Club rooms, at the time of check-in.”

    The “(EXCLUDING SUITES)”, which I capitalized, is in the T&C.
    So, you want 4 “guaranteed” suite upgrades per year? Done, you got it. But then they’ll quote you Item #3 when you run out of DSUs and request a complimentary suite upgrade. While properties where a HGP Diamond is a frequent guest and well-known would ignore Item #3 and give them a complimentary suite upgrade if it’s available, most properties would deny requests for such upgrades by HGP Diamonds by simply quoting them T&C Item #3…

    Are you sure you’d like to have your perks “guaranteed”? Te answer must be an unwavering “no”, if you play the game with a “full deck” 😉


  13. Do you want to see why all the talks about how Hilton elite levels and perks suck are pure bunk and ignorance because is right HHonors the most vibrant, dynamic and REWARDING hotel loyalty program out there, with SPG dead and HGP so moribund its pulse hardly registers, after botching their most recent Diamond status match offer by biting more than they could chew? Then check out how HHonors has creatively sweetened their Q4 “Double Up with Double Points” global promo into a being TRIPLY more rewarding and more:

    One can fudge the truth and be myopic only for so long…


  14. Now, let me fill you in on a couple of things that no ‘travel guru’ has figured out because they are too busy peddling made up claims and dubious standards of “best” to actually inform themselves so that they can be better at what they do.

    — Why does HHonors make it so easy for people to earn their Gold status? Are they stupid?
    — Why did HHonors properties all of a sudden stop opting out of global HH promos, so that not a single one has opted out in the last 2-3 years?

    The answers to those “mysteries of our time” can be found in HHonors most authoritative public documents: their Annual Reports (10-K) filings to the SEC. In their 2015 Annual Report (search it online), you will find the following business “philosophy” of a program, run by very smart people, that makes it clear that HHonors has stepped up their game with lucrative promos and perks because, unlike SPG’s ‘Fritz’ who got canned, HHonors’ top brass TRULY UNDERSTAND the value of their loyalty program to the company’s HEALTH. Here’s how they spell it out public for all to see and be INFORMED:

    “The program [HHonors] provides targeted marketing, promotions and customized guest experiences to approximately 51 million members. Our Hilton HHonors members represented approximately 52 percent of our system-wide occupancy and contributed hotel-level revenues to us and our hotel owners of over $15 billion during the year ended December 31, 2015. Affiliation with our loyalty programs encourages members to allocate more of their travel spending to our hotels. The percentage of travel spending we capture from loyalty members increases as they move up the tiers of our program. The program is funded by contributions from eligible revenues generated by Hilton HHonors members and collected by us from hotels in our system. These funds are applied to reimburse hotels and partners for Hilton HHonors points redemptions and to pay for program administrative expenses and marketing initiatives that support the program.”

    Much about HHonors is EXPLAINED by the above. For example, because HHonors drives the lion’s share of the company’s profit, the CEO can play hardball and force every property to participate in “global” promos or else: the result has been that NOT A SINGLE PROPERTY has been allowed to opt out of HH promos in over 2 years. It also explains why HHonors appears to easily give away their Gold status and has even begun to status-match to their Diamond status, which they seldom did in the past: the company believes or understands that ” THE PERCENTAGE OF TRAVEL SPENDING WE CAPTURE FROM LOYALTY MEMBERS INCREASES AS THEY MOVE UP THE TIERS OF OUR PROGRAM.” So, give them status and they will come!

    The result has been the most palpably vibrant and overall rewarding loyalty program out there at the moment, at a time when the self-anointed “travel guru’s” favorite programs are either dead or on their deathbed.


  15. I am very tired with rewards programs that offer top benefits to credit card holders and do not offer any difference for those of us who actually use their rooms or planes to gain top level. In the seat and in the bed loyalty must mean more that someone who pays their mortgage with their branded credit card, these people have no loyalty and change as soon as someone else offers 1,000 more miles.

    I understand that there is value and profits from the credit card programs and airlines and hotels should benefit from them, but there has to be a difference in how that loyalty or lack of loyalty is measured against those of us who actually use and pay for their services by the plane tickets we by and the hotel rooms we pay for, which is their actual business and where their main profits come from.

  16. @Chris – it does, it’s called “SPG”…can’t buy your way to the top, and that’s why the perks are so good 🙂

    Of course, others will rant and rave about their program for years on end, and no one pays any attention as, you know, the facts (and actual experiences) dictate otherwise.

  17. @DCS

    I wonder why it’s so hard for such a brilliant and respected academic (paraphrasing you) to understand simple things like:

    — Different people value things differently. For example, one might prefer a chance to confirm a suite in advance at time of booking instead of hoping that asking nicely (or pushing laminated T&Cs in front desk staffs’ faces) will result in an upgrade, especially if it’s an important trip, say, with the family that can only happen once a year. This may be much more valuable EVEN WITH FEWER upgrades.

    Specifically in Hyatt’s case, each upgrade that you can confirm in advance can be applied to up to 7 nights, so it’s not truly only 4 upgrades, it’s more like up to 28. Yes, there are restrictions. Yes, outside of these certs there are no suite upgrades. But there is value for those who like to plan in advance to do some up front searching to find the availability. A hypothetical example for award flights: I’d much rather have the opportunity to find business class seats in advance that I can book for certain, than ONLY the opportunity to book economy with maybe the chance of upgrading at the gate.

    — A 4pm guaranteed late check-out, as in SPG’s case, does NOT preclude later check outs. I’ve gotten plenty of check-outs at 4:30pm, 5pm, 5:30pm, 6pm, even as late as 6:30pm. I’ll bet I could get 6:13pm too. If the hotel can do it, they will usually accommodate a Platinum, but the part I guess you don’t understand is that it’s nice to have the baseline guarantee for peace of mind. The value in the 4pm guaranteed late check-out benefit is that SPG Plats can count on it. With HH, maybe you can get it 90% or even 99% of the time. What if you really needed it the other 1% of the time, but they don’t give it to you?

    All that being said, SPG’s future is uncertain. That does not automatically make any other program better in the present. Hyatt will have to keep competing to keep the business of elites.

  18. @V — If you knew at all where I am coming from, you’d realize that you are preaching to a convert when you write: “Different people value things differently.” That’s precisely the starting point for my “crusade” to validate precisely what you just said about what people value being YMMV, by showing that self-anointed “travel guru’s” concept “best” that’s become blogopshere dogma is totally ludicrous precisely because most of the stuff in the loyalty game is SUBJECTIVE, i.e. YMMV.

    So, in order to show that it’s all YMMV, I poke or demonstrate gaping holes in their claims, just like I did up there for DSUs and I am about to do below with your claims about DSUs, which sound like you were brainwashed…

    While you can confirm DSUs in advance, there still needs to be AVAILABILITY, like for any other elite suite upgrade, except that for DSUs if there is no availability at booking you’re out of luck for that stay. And, each DSU being good for only 7 nights is another limitation!!! What do you if you book a 9-night stay, as mine frequently are? You’d have to use 2 DSUs, wasting 5 nights on the second DSU in the process. I had a 9-day stay at Conrad HKG last year and I was upgrade to a suite for the entire duration of the stay and that’s a clear advantage of not having perks guaranteed!!!

    The 4pm guarantee does not make a program better either, because it is also an excuse for a program to deny you non-guaranteed checkout options. You may have lucked out and gotten approved for later checkout, just like I did luck out and got upgraded to a suite at Hyatt Regency Manila and at Grant Hyatt Singapore as HGP PLATINUM, but that does not refute my basic argument. Loyalty programs’ only rationale for “guaranteeing” perks — when they do not have to because any of their “guarantees” are made obsolete by the small print in every program’s T&C — is so that they can deny non-guaranteed options. The logic is flawless. Citing exceptions simply affirms the rule!


  19. I earned enough points to be Diamond for 2017.
    I have already earned enough points to be Diamond for 2018.
    Is there any extra benefit or would I be better earning points with another chain?

  20. @Already Diamond says: “Is there any extra benefit or would I be better earning points with another chain?”

    There are plenty of benefits that you have not even yet taken advantage of! And what “other chain” is there to switch to that would “you be better earning points with”? You are already with the chain that’s now the only game in town. Even the grass does not look greener elsewhere. HHonors is it, self-anointed travel guru’s thoroughly discredited claims about the program notwithstanding. For years, they promoted SPG and Hyatt Gold Passport as hotel loyalty world’s “creme de la creme” , and then looked what happened. Both programs collapsed within a year of each other! That right there is all anyone needs to know to begin taking so-called travel guru’s claims with a huge grain of salt.

    Good luck finding that “other chain”!

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